In my life, no matter what comes my way and causes me problems, I can always find the silver lining. Many people have asked me about this, and want to know how they can do it as well. For a while I didn’t really understand why they couldn’t do it just like I did, but then after a bit of observation, it occurred to me why that might be.
Silver linings often require you to look at an emotional situation with a self serving eye. It isn’t something that a lot of people really feel comfortable doing. There is an upside to everything, but it does mean that you have to see things from a self service angle. Silver linings, upsides, or the funny side of things is something that I have had to learn to not point out to most people, but I always see them.
To find silver linings, you have to be a bit selfish, and sometimes it’s okay to be selfish. Take it from me, always being selfish is not going to serve you well, but being selfish sometimes is perfectly acceptable. If you can look past the unfortunate aspects of a situation, you can find that there are things that definitely went your way. If you practice, you can find these things faster and easier, and perhaps it will make a tough time easier to cope with.
In my case, it’s easy because I don’t experience the negativity that most people will when bad things happen. This makes the silver lining thing something to keep more or less secret, except from those that are already familiar with my way of thinking. They aren’t going to be shocked by the callousness. For instance, my sister’s suicide to me was an event that happened. We weren’t close, and while it is unfortunate for her that she didn’t feel that she should be in the world any longer, she was not a great influence on her daughter. In my mind, her death meant that my niece was better off.
There is an upside to everything. Whether or not you can find it on the other hand, that is another story. An example might be someone that requires surgery for something, and while recovering from that surgery they catch a virus that just levels them for a week or so. That sucks, right? I would imagine so, but if this is the type of person that overdoes things too quickly as a normative behavior, getting laid flat and being forced to recover is a silver lining. It might feel absolutely awful, but not nearly as bad as having to have revisionary surgery because you are stubborn.
There are a lot of examples of this, and it tends to be easier to point them out far after the fact, as during, people are a bit too emotionally raw to want to see how something rather bad has an upside. I get that, only by observation however. Silver linings is how I do things, and it isn’t a strategy to make things easier, it’s just how my mind works. I am always looking to see how a situation can be turned to my advantage, or how it works for me overall.
Perhaps it is my callous nature that allows me to see it so quickly, and it isn’t something that I would ever be willing to give up being able to do. I figure that even if I were able to feel the emotional depths of negativity that people around me feel, and something dreadful happened, I would still want to be able to find the fastest path up out of the valley of emotional darkness.
Now, I don’t feel these things, and to me there is no trail into the valley to begin with, but I can see y’all down there, and sometimes you stay there longer than you need to. Sometimes I see you building houses, like you’re going to stay awhile. Not a good strategy. Instead, if you can seek out the silver lining, that might be a pathway up, and it might give you the motivation to climb up faster, instead of being in the emotional ague state that seems to go hand in hand with that swampy bottom.
Getting stuck is hard, and I know that there are emotional situations that neurotypicals simply cannot find the silver lining to. That’s fine, there is no reason why it always has to be a focus for you. There are times that emotions have to do what they are supposed to do, and you have to go through them until you reach the other side.
On the other hand, there are plenty of distressing situations that can readily be turned towards your favor if you are looking for how to make it work for you. In some respects I suppose this is what is considered machiavellian in nature, as it does require a person to set aside their traditional emotional makeup in order to bend things to their will. This is less about bending though, and more about seeing the opening and directing your focus on it. Usually silver linings aren’t something you need to make happen, just see them when they do appear, and possibly move in the direction that they are leading you.
It is difficult to give direct examples of how to find a silver lining to different situations, because they are rather dependent on your specific circumstances, and the devil is in the details. The smallest variation in a situation will make what to look for unique. Instead of looking externally, this is something that requires you to look internally instead. You have to know you, and what you want out of relationships and situations, for you to be able to see how you might get those things, even in dark times. Even if it is difficult, and it might be very generic, I will do my best with an example.
It’s the season of holidays, so perhaps you love your family, but somehow, whenever you go home, they manage to still treat you like you’re a kid, and haven’t accomplished anything in your life. It has never crossed your mind to not go see them for the holidays, but a tiny part of you sort of dreads going. Then, a blizzard hits, and you are stuck at the airport. You aren’t going anywhere but back home. You feel terrible about not being able to get there, and even more terrible that you have a suitcase full of gifts that your nieces and nephews will be getting late.
But… that nice quiet house, that glass of wine, comfy sweats, and that good book or movie… isn’t that nicer than being reminded for the umpteenth time about how you wrecked your dad’s car when you were fifteen? In your mind you can still hear him telling the story, but you don’t actually have to be there for it this year.
Instead, outside snow is falling down quietly, blanketing everything in perfect glimmering white, and you get to have a lovely night to yourself. It might not be the holiday you imagined, but somehow it’s better, even if it comes with a serving of guilt on the side.
That is an example of a silver lining, but it’s the obvious one. That one is easy to paint because families can be annoying, and sometimes as good intentioned as you are about seeing them, it can be a relief when you don’t have to. I have watched people interact with their relatives enough to be able to give that scenario life without a lot of effort. For finding that lining in regular life, you always have to be on the lookout for it, and you can’t decide that the negative emotions get precedent over the possible upside to any given situation.
How many opportunities have you missed because you were so busy being consumed by the distress of when something goes wrong? Or, how many times did you miss that evening on the couch with the snowfall outside because you were too busy letting the din of the airport and the disappointed tones of your mother’s voice dictate how you perceived that day. You could go home and love life, or, you can go home and feel really badly about not being with your family.
As much as it might seem that this post is about just finding the positive in every situation, it is more about learning to be okay with self focus and what makes you happy. What is good for you, and how do you make sure that it is at least on your mind enough that you aren’t running on empty. Sacrifice is a good thing… I mean, I think that it is. I don’t have the same sense of deprivation that others seem to have when they give up something that they want for the sake of others. I simply shift my priorities, because in the long run I can always see how the situation benefits me.
I either have a trump card to pull because I was selfless last time, or whatever the concession is, while it may benefit me less than my previous focus, it is still a net positive for me. Either way, it is about keeping myself, and my benefit in focus. If there is no positive for me, I fail to see the purpose of the conversation. I don’t expect you to be as self focused as I am. That would be a pretty amazing feat really, but if you want to have things working to your advantage more often than not, you have to at least hold yourself as a pretty high priority.
If you don’t, you can’t do this. This isn’t something you can pull off if you are mired in guilt, or worry what people are going to think of you… or what you think you should think of yourself. You have to want the best for you. That doesn’t mean you should steal the wallets and purses of everyone you know, while simultaneously throwing them under a bus, but it does mean that whenever you are dealing with others you have that little part of you seeking your silver lining.
This world has made martyrs of people that give a lot away, and don’t want anything back. That is nonsense. You cannot give away what you do not have to begin with, so if you aren’t practicing some form of self care, or self focus, you are going to end up scraping the bottom of the barrel so hard you’re bringing up silvers of wood.
It seems to me that people get stuck in a chemical loop of addiction based on what they think other people’s opinions of them are. There is a need to be seen in a positive light that feeds them somehow, but it also devours them. If they appear to be self-sacrificing and good to others, that’s supposed to be good enough, even if being self-sacrificing and good is turning them into bitter and angry individuals. Interestingly, a lot of the people that I know that fit this description are pretty bitter about a lot of things.
I understand, when you give a lot of yourself, there is a psychological expectation that someone is going to do the same thing back for you, but they are missing a crucial piece of the puzzle. Other people don’t value them because they don’t value themselves. Until that happens, they are stuck on the never ending chainsaw ride, and that isn’t fun. Instead of doing this forever, stop and place some value on what you want, instead of making sure everyone else has what they want so you can feel like you did what you were supposed to.
Making sure that everyone else is happy, and that they get their good outcome while not worrying about yourself is contrary to survival. You have to make sure that you have certain needs met in order to keep living, and your mental health is a part of that. If you set aside a part of you for… well… you, you will be much better off overall. Be a little more psychopathic in how you see the world, and you will have a better time within it.
There was a talk given by Kevin Dutton in which he described how people could become more psychopathically minded by adjusting some of the way they think about things. He states:
There are three very simple psychopathic principles that can make an immediate effect in our everyday lives.
The first thing is to fail fast. That sounds crazy, but a lot of people are frightened of failure, but actually the quicker you fail the quicker you find out what is going to succeed. So, don’t take failure personally. That’s the first thing I would say.
The second thing I would say is decouple emotion from behavior. Most people think that in order to be able to do something you need to feel like doing it. Well, if that were the case, you wouldn’t even get out of bed in the morning, alright. None of us would even be here right now.
So when you’ve got something difficult to do, like you’ve got to pick up the phone and give someone bad news, don’t keep putting it off, don’t procrastinate, because actually all you’re doing is storing up the pain, aggregating the pain for later on. Next time you’ve got something to do. Stop. Think to yourself since when did I need to feel like this in order to do it? And then, just crack on and do it.
And the third one is, just be a little bit more self-interested. There’s nothing wrong with putting yourself first. How many times has someone asked you to do something, you looked in the diary, and it’s clear, and you said yes, and it’s two or three months hence? Only, for when it comes round to the point where you’ve got to do it, it’s always the wrong time?
Oh my God, why did I agree to do that?
Well, here’s a way of stopping that happening and putting more fun in your diary. Next time someone asks you to do something in two or three months' time, stop and think. Would I drop what I am doing tomorrow in order to do that? Is it interesting enough for me? Is it beneficial enough for me? Are they paying me enough for it?
Because in two or three months' time, it will be tomorrow and you’re going to have to face exactly the same problem.
There are three very simple psychopathic principals that will make a huge impact in both your personal and your professional life. It will make you more confident, it will make you more efficient, and it will make you more effective.
All of it is important, but the part that I bolded is something that a lot of people could really benefit from. Be more self interested. Don’t be a d*ck about it, no one needs that in their coffee, but still, be more assertive for what you want, or if you can’t be, look for it in the shadows. That’s the nice thing about silver, even in the dimmest of light it is still going to gleam.